From David Hulen in Anchorage --
Here's a quick transcript of what new Public Safety Commissioner Charles Kopp told the news media earlier today.
“I look forward to serving the people of the state of Alaska as commissioner of Public Safety. I called a press conference this afternoon because my reputation as a career Alaska police officer, as a manager and as a decent person with a wife and a family I love has come under attack, unfairly as I see it.
"I was asked about this a week ago. I knew at that time that it was a personnel matter and I would need to speak with the City of Kenai legal department to find out what I could even say on this matter to protect the confidentiality of all involved. This day I am ready to talk about the entire circumstances of what I have been accused of. My reputation is very, very important to me. In this job, a good name is to be desired above all else and that is why I am speaking to you today.
"For reasons that I do not know, I have been made the subject of rumor and innuendo. I think one news report said that I was rumored to have a history of sexual harassment. That is not true.
"Sexual harassment is a serious thing. In our society, men typically but not always are the harassers and women are usually the victims. This can happen in a couple of ways. Either the boss demands sexual favors from the female subordinate or there is a pattern of conduct called a hostile work environment designed to drive the woman out of the workplace. I did not do either of those things and I never have.
"This goes back to the fall of 2005 when I was the city of Kenai police chief and acting city manager. We were in a period of transition where we had had a manager search and I was in charge of the manager search to look for a new manager for our city. We have since hired Rick Koch. From the city of Homer.
"This is what happened. An acquaintance of mine since high school is the accuser that we are talking about. She worked for the department for several years as a dispatcher in the ‘90s. She took a few years off and in that interim of a few years she came by work six to eight times to say hello. She was a friend outside of work to my wife and I. She came by to see me at work, came by to talk about how things were going as a former dispatcher, and toward the latter of that three-year period started to ask if there were any job openings that she could be considered for.
"Her normal greeting of me in the police department lobby was with a hug. A job opening did come up in April of 2005 and the complainant took the position when it was offered to her. I want to, for full context, set the context of my outside-work relationship with the complainant in this case. This complainant regularly sent me cards on my birthdays, sent me a gift, it was cookbook entitled “Boy Meets Grill” that I had to show to the city council in the ensuing investigation after the complaint that there was a strong outside-of-work relationship. I showed them the cards. I gave examples and circumstances of the relationship outside of work.
"This employee, in July of 2005, she’s now been with the department back for two months, picked up a car at a major sales event in Kenai where many hundreds of cars were on a lot and salesmen were moving their cars. She was driving an Audi all-road and a high-pressure car salesman in the vehicle, and this was her statement to me, that she was stressed out, couldn’t figure out how to get rid of this salesman and directed him to come out where I live because she knew if I was home I would be able to get the guy to back off her...she would be OK, she would be safe. That was in July of 2005.
"In August of 2005, there was a recital of her daughter, her daughter had a recital or performance, she was an aspiring musician, and she asked my wife and I to join her for that recital. We did and we sat together as couples that evening and listened to her daughter’s performance. Shortly after that we had a department get-together at our house when Mr. David Forster was convicted for the murder of Officer John Watson. Some you you will remember Kenai Police Officer John Watson was killed Christmas Day 2003. While the final sentence came down, either late August or September of 2005, we had a department get-together. The complainant came over to our residence.
"In those social settings, it was normal for her to greet me or say goodbye with a hug. Nothing other than that. A friend-to-friend hug. That gives context to that relationship.
"In September 2005, she accused me of sexual harassment. This came as a complete surprise. She said there were some hugs at work. She said there was a neck rub when she was in pain. And that there was an alleged kiss. I believe I’ve heard in the media that there was some kind of reprimand but I’m not aware of that. But that’s what I’ve just seen in the paper.
"I was surprised and I never heard that complaint from her before, ever. This is what I did. I did say that I had hugged her on three or four occasions in a friend-to-friend capacity. I did say that one morning I walked into work, in my office, and her office was just diagonally across the hall from mine, and immediately I could hear her moaning audibly from the hallway. I looked in the door and I said ‘Are you OK?’ And she was locked up on the desk like this, her eyes were closed and she was rocking back and forth in the chair and she said, ‘My neck is killing me.’ I said ‘What do you want me to do? Get you some Advil or what?’ She was locked up. She goes, “I don’t know.” She goes “I can’t move.” I said “You want to go home?” “I don’t know.” I said ‘Do you want me to apply direct pressure to your neck?” She said “OK.” And with my thumbs I just applied pressure to the back of her neck for a few seconds and that was it. I went out, got her some Advil and brought it back, and I said “If you want to go home, just go home.” I think later that day, she did. I don’t know what it was but she had difficulty with her neck that morning.
"I did not kiss her. I never sought or requested an intimate relationship with her. I never sought to make her uncomfortable in her job.
"The city of Kenai took this accusation seriously, as it should have. And they assigned a city attorney to investigate, as it should have. The female employee was reassigned to another supervisor. This is a standard human resource response in a case like this where an accusation has been made and it protects all parties involved. It is not a finding of fact. I cooperated openly and fully with this investigation. I told the investigating attorney and subsequently the council everything that happened. I admitted that there had been three or four hugs in the workplace. I adamantly denied that I ever chased after her or that it was anything other than a friend-to-friend, or reciprocal, if anything initiated by her at least half the time. That it was not anything that I was chasing or pursuing. And I explained our outside work relationship and cooroborated that.
"Initially, I was told that any contact with an employee, a hug in that nature, was inappropriate in a workplace and I was given a letter of reprimand. I then exercised my right to appeal that action, and I did so because I knew that I did not sexually harass the female employee and that our relationship had been just friends. The city council heard my appeal and it agreed that the letter of reprimand would be removed from the file if there were no further occurrences in the next two years. There have been no further occurrences since then. There were none whatsoever and there were none before that. And the letter of reprimand was removed and my record is clean.
"The whole intent of the appeal was I did not want a mark on my record. I did not want anything in the history of my 19 years of service with the city of Kenai to be a discredit. And there is nothing in my file, and there were no other letters of reprimand I have ever suffered in 19 years. I have nothing but outstanding evaluations in every way from many different bosses. And I have disclosed my personnel file to the Anchorage Daily News.
"As you will recall, I said when all this started that I have nothing to be ashamed of and I stand by that statement. I did not sexually harass the employee who made the complaint against me in 2005. I never requested, suggested or even desired a romantic or a sexual relationship with that employee. I never sought or never wished to drive her out of the workplace. To the contrary, she stayed and worked a whole other year after she mad her accusation.
"I only thought of her as a friend. I do not know what her motives are in attacking me now. I believe the city of Kenai continued to have confidence in me during and after the investigation. I continued to serve as acting city manager and as chief of police until I helped the city find my replacement. I continued to serve in every capacity with no job action taken against me, and I continued to serve until my present appointment by Gov. Palin.
"There is no history of sexual harassment. There was only one complaint, that one, and that was the only one, three years ago. The 2005 investigation was a learning experience for me. I learned the importance of keeping personal friendships separate from work relationships. I don’t think anybody here wants me to summarize my career in law enforcement but if you want me to answer questions on maybe why the decision was made to serve in this capacity I’d be happy to do that. Most of you probably know that I am a valedictorian graduate of a national training center of polygraph science, I am a graduate of the FBI national academy for law enforcement administrators, that I have served in leadership capacities with the Alaska Judicial Council, Alaska Police Standards Council, and I’m well known in law enforcement circles around Alaska.
"I’ve always done every job I’ve ever done with honor and integrity. There is one thing I am not. I am not a sex harasser. There are many things I am. I am a positive, goal-driven individual with high expectations for this department. I am not afraid of a challenge. I’m a good communicator. And I have a great depth of experience in many areas. I love the state of Alaska and its people. I am honored to help guide this department and provide for the public safety of all Alaskans through the furtherance of our mission. I have strong professional relationships in communities throughout Alaska that I will use effectively to meet the public safety needs to Alaska citizens. And I now need to bring my full concentration and focus to carrying out the mission and focus of this department, which is so critical to the welfare of so many Alaskans.
"This has been a real distraction in recent days. I now want to move forward with this department’s mission and put this behind me.
"I know you’re going to have some questions and that’s fine but I also want to introduce our city of Kenai mayor, Pat Porter. Mayor Porter, do you have any comments?
Mayor Porter: You know, the only comment that I have is that I have known Mr. Kopp for 19 years of his police service, from the time he was an officer until the time he was appointed police chief, and I can truly tell you that the city of Kenai was very sorry to have him go. We hated to see him leave his position because he’s done a fine, fine job in his department. We are however very honored that Gov. Palin has chosen him to lead the Department of Public Safety. The reason for that being is because we have had such confidence in him and have seen how he has led the department in Kenai and we know he can do the same thing for the state of Alaska. He is a gentleman, truly a gentleman who operates with a lot of integrity and I think this state will be very pleased...We’re very supporting of him in my community."
Reporter: How were you reprimanded? You said you were reprimanded. How?
Kopp: The reprimand was for the hugs in the workplace.
Reporter: No – what was it?
Kopp: A letter.
Reporter: What did the letter say?
Kopp: It said don’t ever hug an employee as a supervisor, you know, don’t ever touch an employee. And I agreed with that. And they said if two years ago by and there’s no furtherance of this type that the letter would come out of the file. And that letter did come out of the file after two years.
Reporter: The accuser says there was a witness of some sort after this alleged kiss. You know what she’s referring to?
Kopp: I do. That is a lie. That is not true. She has identified a witness but there was never a witness to any kiss.
Reporter: Just to reclarify – no other staff members or any people in the public have made any claims of sexual harassment against you?
Kopp: That is correct.
Reporter: When Palin was considering you for the transition team or when you were in talks with her to become commissioner, did you tell her about this?
Kopp: Again, November of 2006. The governor’s office was aware of this allegation and in the ensuing time they’ve had enough information come to them that they have a high degree of confidence in my appointment.
Reporter: How long did you know you were going to be appointed commissioner?
Kopp: I knew I was going to be appointed commissioner on Friday, July 12, I believe, whatever date that was.
Reporter: So you never said anything to Monegan or anything...
Kopp: I never knew anything to say. I never even knew there was a problem until 24 hours before I was given the job. That’s how quick it was for me.
Reporter: At the last press conference, you said there was no job action taken against you.
Reporter: Does the letter from the city attorney to the alleged victim, said that as a result of the city’s investigation that they’d removed you as this person’s supervisor. Would you not call that a job action?
Kopp: No, it didn’t affect me in any capacity in my role as acting city manager or my role as chief of police. It merely reassigned the employee to another supervisor as a result of the complainant. That was the immediate response to the complaint. It was not a job action taken against me.
Reporter: The letter says ‘As a result of the investigation...’ not as a result of a complaint. It makes it sounds as though the investigation was done and because of what we found out ...
Kopp: You have to realize the complaint was made, initial statements were taken, there’s an appeal process and that’s the time I was fully able to show the context of my relationship with the complainant. ... That letter was not a finding of fact and that letter was not a job action taken against me. It was a human resources response to protect everybody involved.
Reporter: You breezed over quickly your history with the complainant. Did you say you knew her since high school?
Reporter: And you went to high school here?
Kopp: I graduated from high school, Cook Inlet Academy in Soldotna and the complainant is a Kenai High School graduate.
Reporter: So your history goes back decades?
Kopp: I want to thank you all for your questions. You have it all. That’s the bottom of the well. I appreciate that very much. So thank you.